Expensive Fine Dining

Dakshin - Colorful flavors of Chettinad

Tuesday, July 15, 2014Me! In words

I like food festivals. Held for a short period of time, they dedicate a special menu to a specific cuisine and you get to sample a fare that is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Dakshin, at the ITC Windsor is currently running a Chettinad promotion. We were invited to try out the menu and were quite skeptical - after all, Chettinad equals chillies is the popular belief. 

The Chettinad cuisine is representative of the Chettiar community of Tamil Nadu. This trader community's food is characterized by the extensive use of spices and aromatics. Besides the vast range of vegetables that form of a part of their ingredients in everyday cooking, meats too find a place. Seafood is prominently used as is chicken and lamb. 

Most restaurants that claim to serve non-vegetarian south Indian food will have a customary Chicken Chettinad, spice levels of which may cause your eyes to burn long before you have placed a morsel in your mouth. At Dakshin, an effort has been made to tone down this assault on your senses and give you a meal that has all of the characteristics of the cuisine - aromatic, flavorful and spice levels that allow you thoroughly enjoy your meal. 

Chettinad food, like most south Indian meals always begins with a range of crisps - papads, murukkus or sandiges as some of us call them. Paniyarams - plain or with shredded vegetables also come to the table, along with a range of chutneys. Here is a pictorial description of our meal. Please do bear in mind that these are tasting portions and not indicative of the portion that will be served when you order. 

We began with the Settu Soup - a lentil-based broth with tomatoes and cauliflower flavored with aniseed and peppercorns. I honestly did not expect too much out of it, but this is a soup that totally hit me by surprise. Each spoonful will give you that soft texture that well cooked dal gives to its water - that, tempered with a touch of pepper, the tartness of tomatoes and the body of cauliflower make this a really nice way to begin the meal. It can fill you up though, so you may want to go easy on it. 

 Sundiah - Shredded lamb cooked in a blend of special masalas rolled in banana stem fibers and deep fried. These little beauties will have you lift them up to gaze at for a while. Once you free them from their banana fiber cases and dip them into the accompanying chilli-tomato chutney, you will take your time to savor each bite. The meat has been pounded into submission with a range of spices and the crunchy exterior holds it all together in perfect little roundels. 

 Meen Varuval - Pan fried seer fish with a simple marinade of ginger garlic and chillies. The chefs here know how to treat their fish, which, just like its meat counterpart has to be respected if you want it to satiate a fish lover's desire. 

Moolai Masala - Lamb brain pan fired in chilies tomatoes and flavored with aniseed - This one was for Sudhakar, who really did enjoy it. I still have my issues with innards. 

 Kozhi Upkari - A coconut based chicken curry

Keerai Kadayal - Tempered spinach puree

 Meen Kozambhu - a tangy fish curry

 Kozhi Tharakkal - A shredded chicken dish that stood out for me - mildly spiced and a lovely accompaniment to the parathas that came on in a little while. 

 Vella Poondu Kozhambu - Cloves of garlic tempered with mustard, fenugreek and curry leaves. Now this one had me really sit up - a garlic curry - not a garlic based curry, but a garlic clove curry. For me, a garlic'oholic, this was really wonderful. Made me wonder why I did not think of cooking something like this at home. The cloves of garlic are large, cooked to the point of them turning to mush as soon as they touch your tongue. You will not go out and scare away vampires if that is what you are worried about. A very nice dish to try if you are in the mood to experiment. 

 Chettinad Kozhi - a dish that brought the hotness on. Chicken drumsticks in pepper and chilli. With a drizzle of lemon juice, this dish is all that Chettinad cuisine is popularly perceived as, on a plate. 

A look at our loaded plates with parathas (Above) and with Appams (below). I still prefer my appams to have the soft centers and crispy edges. Its a peeve I have with most places. 

The meal ended with a round of steamed rice, rasam and sambar. Following which we were offered the Muneer (above) in shot glasses. A refreshing means to settling that massive meal we enjoyed. 

Dessert was the Aadikkumayam - Roasted urad dal halwa. One spoonful should keep even the most diehard fans of desserts satiated for a day. Heavy, but deliciously so. The Kavani Arisi, a throwback to the Burmese trade contacts of the Chettiar community is also on the menu. This is a sweetened wild rice and coconut pudding. The Elaneer payasam is an evergreen favorite. 

Elaneer Payasam

The Chettinad Festival is on till the end of the month (July) at Dakshin, ITC Windsor. Great service and great food is an assurance. A meal for two here will be approximately Rs 3500+

Address: #25, Golf Course Road, Windsor Square, Bangalore - 560052
Phone: 22269898
Cuisine: South Indian
Cards Accepted: Yes
Parking: Valet

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